Alcohol has caused me many problems in life. Blackouts, brownouts, blueouts. (That last one is when you get so drunk you create your own version of the Blue Man Group). But nothing can compare to the time it suckered me into doing Whole30, a popular 30-day, uber-restrictive diet that everyone who hates themself is into these days. Of course, alcohol and its lawyer are going to claim it had nothing to do with my Whole30 experience. To that, I say, “Technically true, but actually false. Also, how did the concept of alcohol get a lawyer? Is that lawyer available to help me, a man currently being sued by the real Blue Man Group?”
I say “technically true,” because the presence of booze didn’t make me do Whole30. It was the absence. My girlfriend and I both decided that we would cut out drinking for a month, and since Whole30 also involves not drinking, she thought we should add in the diet while we were at it. I agreed, not knowing that abstaining from drinking and then deciding to add in Whole30 is similar to quitting TV for a month and then adding in slowly gouging out your eyeballs.
Whole30 isn’t only no alcohol. It’s no sugar, no grains, no legumes, no mercy, no soy, no hope, no dairy, and no survivors. I’m obviously being extreme, but that’s only because professional dieticians—people so high up in the world of health that their offices are at the top of the food pyramid—have claimed Whole30 is “too extreme.” Can you imagine if a professional race car driver described a stretch of road as “too extreme,” and then millions of people voluntarily drove down that road every single day for an entire month? Can you imagine that? I can’t because the human imagination is powered by legumes, which is something Whole30 won’t let me fucking eat for a few more days.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “Well, I saw that the Whole30 diet book was on The New York Times Best Sellers list for months! Surely it was created by people who know their stuff. They must be doctors or biologists or at least live near a gym!” Wrong, wrong, and maybe, but probably not a respectable gym.
Whole30 was created by “sports nutritionists” Melissa and Dallas Hartwig. I put the “profession” in “quotes” because I believe anybody with a soccer ball and a Fitbit could probably claim to be a sports nutritionist. The two are now divorced, but Melissa continues to write health books while Dallas has decided to become a large city in Texas.
Melissa is the figurehead for Whole30 (she actually goes by “Whole30’s Headmistress,” which, if that sounds bizarre, it’s because it absolutely is), and, according to my research, her story is pure, uncut American Dream. At 19, she was addicted to drugs. By 40, she had earned millions of dollars convincing people not to eat lasagna for a month. Only in America can a former dope fiend become Garfield’s mortal enemy.
Hartwig is not only Whole30’s creator and headmistress: she is also its God. She declares which foods are compliant and which bring your stomach eternal damnation. In the hands of a benevolent deity, this power is understandable, but Hartwig changes commandments whenever she wants. She outlawed the white potato from the diet and then, after its starchy name had been tarnished, decided to bring it back. Kale and plantain chips were fine, until she issued a “NO CHIPS. PERIOD.” edict. Something called coconut aminos were officially allowed starting April 1, 2017, but if you consumed them a second earlier, then please report to the headmistress’s office for immediate expulsion from the Arbitrary Bullshit Academy. For dieters, the fact that foods can be declared compliant and non-compliant whenever Hartwig pleases is maddening, but the amateur capitalist in me knows it’s genius.
Hartwig also licenses out the Whole30 name to food manufacturers, which is a clever tactic: I know I got tired of reading every package’s list of ingredients in order to find out if factory workers accidentally thought about a grain of sugar while making it. In the end, I gladly bought whatever had the Whole30 stamp of approval, regardless of what it was. A lot of it wasn’t even food—just Whole30 merch I purchased in a confused, hungry daze. Regardless, if Big Coconut Aminos offers to pay Melissa a million bucks to declare their food (or whatever it actually is) acceptable, then she’s running one hell of a grift.
One of the hardest parts of the diet was having to tell everyone about it. I didn’t want to tell people, but I had to. Anytime someone asked if I wanted to eat out or grab a drink, I’d have to explain, “Yes, I want to do those things, but I can’t because I no longer have control of my life. I gave full control and power of attorney to Whole30, and Whole30 says alcohol is not for me and that I cannot eat at a restaurant unless my entree is a glass of water.”
Suffice to say, Whole30 does a number on your ability to socialize, but it also gives you a pretty great excuse to get out of an event you don’t want to attend. “Ah, man. I totally want to go to your ugly sweater party, but I’m on Whole30 and one of the diet’s rules is no sweaters. Yeah, I know. It’s crazy. No, don’t Google to check if that’s real. No, don’t Bing to check if it’s real either. Just take my word that I want to attend your terrible party, but Whole30 forbids it. Thanks.”
Since you have to make practically all of your meals yourself, Whole30 does have an added side effect of possibly improving your cooking skills. I went from being a guy who only scrambled a few eggs a couple times a week to being a guy who scrambled a few eggs a couple times a day. There isn’t an egg I can’t scramble now. Chicken, ostrich, Kinder, you name it—I can move it around in a pan until it’s edible. I am eternally grateful to Whole30 for allowing me to add “Master Scrambler” to the special skills section of my résumé. It’s right there next to “Can Wear Hats.”
While I truly don’t begrudge the diet, there are plenty of people I now begrudge thanks to Whole30. Let me be a little more clear: every single person on the Whole30 subreddit.
Dieting is hard, especially when the diet is so confusing it needs its own headmistress. That’s why an online community of well-versed participants sounds like the perfect place to ask thoughtful questions and to receive and give encouraging motivation. That’s what I thought I’d find when I went to the Whole30 subreddit. What I actually found was a place that made me wish Al Gore had never had sex with a computer and thus invented the internet.
One user posted a question: “My mom was at a graduation ceremony and it was 90 degrees out. She felt faint so she had three Tic Tacs. She is wondering if she has to start Whole30 over or if she can just add time?”
Here’s how that question could be answered:
Rational Person: Of course not!
Compassionate Person: I hope your mother is feeling better. I think she should check in with her doctors about continuing Whole30. Better safe than sorry!
CEO of Tic Tacs: Your mother owes her life to us.
But here’s how it was answered:
Whole30 Subreddit: Yes, your dumbass mother has to start over from day one! Introducing ANY added sugars goes against the Whole30 scriptures! What makes you think your dumbass mother is so special that she’s above the law? She should’ve had three cyanide pills instead! Anyway, feel free to reach out with any more questions from your dumbass mom. Love to help!!! xoxo
This isn’t an isolated incident. Log on at any time of day and you’ll see posts about people thinking of leaving their spouses because they almost ended Whole30 on day 24 by having popcorn at the movies. Or people convincing others to skip birthday parties because cakes emit “sugar air,” and if you inhale too much of that, it’s the same thing as eating five slices. Or people seriously asking what happens if, when they’re sleeping, a spider carrying a soybean happens to crawl its way into their mouth.
When people say Whole30 is an elimination diet, you might think they’re referring to food groups, but what they’re really eliminating is intelligence, common sense, and the ability to eat spiders in our sleep without fear of what they’re carrying.
Ultimately, what I’ve learned from doing Whole30 is that nobody should do Whole30, and experts agree with me. Out of 40 diets ranked by U.S. News & World Report, Whole30 clocked in at #37. Back in 2013, when the world was still sane, Health Magazine stated the month-long torture regimen was one of the worst health trends of the year. If Health Magazine hates something, you know it’s bad. Hell, they reviewed my latest Teal Man Group show and gave it 3.5 stars, despite the fact that I forgot to bring the teal paint and black clothes. It was just me and two other dudes smacking each other with PVC pipes for an hour.
And it was still better than Whole30.
When the 30 days were finally finished and the smoke—from burned scrambled eggs—had cleared, I had probably lost 5-10 pounds. Whole30 says you’re not supposed to weigh yourself, so I didn’t. I’d like to say that’s because I’m not vain, but it’s really because I don’t own a scale. A friend of mine did tell me my face looked thinner, so I know I lost some weight, but now I also know my friend used to think I had a fat face. With friends like these, who needs enemies or a scale?
I had been warned about jumping right back into non-Whole30 foods and alcohol. You’re supposed to slowly reintroduce your body to sugars, grains, and the rest of the foods Melissa isn’t making money off of, but I felt that it’d be best to just dive right in. My first real post-Whole30 meal was chicken pad Thai washed down with a nice IPA. It was amazing. It was like seeing the most beautiful painting after being blind for an entire month, and then eating that painting and it tasting like chicken pad Thai. I could feel my face getting fatter, but I didn’t mind. Please endorse me for “Has A Fat Face” on LinkedIn.
If you’re interested in dieting, try something else. Do the Paleo Diet and eat like a caveman. Prehistoric humans often lived to the ripe old age of 30, so they must have been doing something right. Or do the South Beach Diet and only eat things found on a beach, like sunscreen and sand castles. If those don’t click for you, there’s always Jenny Craig. It worked for Jenny Craig, and you’re probably 10 times the Jenny Craig she is.
If all those diets fail, who cares? Why not just sit back with a martini and a big bowl of Tic Tacs and enjoy your life while you can? Isn’t that the point? To revel in life’s pleasures, whether they be food, drink, or making fun of people named Dallas? After all, no one knows when their time will run out.
Except for me. I know exactly when my day will come, because the Blue Man Group just sent me a Google Calendar notification for my forthcoming demise. Apparently the lawsuit was a just a distraction. Guess I really blue it this time.